John D. MacDonald Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

John D. MacDonald takes the hard-boiled detective and fashions him into the modern version of a knight-errant. MacDonald’s Travis McGee usually gets involved in helping young women who have been bilked of their money by charming male swindlers. In McGee’s code of honor, the worst crime is taking advantage of the innocent and the naïve. He couples his fiercely moral views with strong convictions about the nature of modern society, which he deplores for its rapacious violation of the environment and its greedy exploitation of human beings. Knowing he cannot change the structure of society fundamentally, McGee opts for living on its fringes and for doing battle with the hucksters and cheats who thrive on fooling women—and sometimes gullible men—by deceit and trickery. Although he is a fierce individualist, McGee is remarkable for having such a well-developed social consciousness. He is a man who realizes that his way of life is in itself a statement, a challenge to the status quo.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Campbell, Frank D., Jr. John D. MacDonald and the Colorful World of Travis McGee. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1977. Study of the world of MacDonald’s fiction, the rules defining it, and its effect on the narrative.

Gorman, Ed. “John D. MacDonald.” In The Big Book of Noir, edited by Lee Server, Ed Gorman, and Martin H. Greenberg. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1998. Details MacDonald’s contributions to film noir and compares him with many other writers and directors.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Looks at MacDonald’s contribution to the pulps and the relationship of pulp fiction to its more respectable literary cousins.

Hirshberg, Ed. John D. MacDonald. Boston: Twayne, 1985. Book-length study of MacDonald’s life and work.

Hirshberg, Ed. “John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee: Heroes for Our Time.” In Crime Fiction and Film in the Sunshine State: Florida Noir, edited by Steve Glassman and Maurice J. O’Sullivan. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997. Discussion of heroism in MacDonald’s work and in his life. Part of an anthology focused on the use of noir motifs in Floridian fiction.

Horsley, Lee. The Noir Thriller. New York: Palgrave, 2001. A scholarly, theoretically informed study of the thriller genre. Includes extensive treatment of MacDonald, discussing nine of his novels. Bibliographic references and index.

Merrill, Hugh. The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000. Extremely well-researched biography that uses correspondence and other personal papers to paint a picture of the author and his creative process.

Moore, Lewis D. Meditations on America: John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee Series and Other Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994. Uses a cultural studies methodology to detail the nature and meaning of MacDonald’s contributions to American culture.

Shine, Walter, and Jean Shine. A Bibliography of the Published Works of John D. MacDonald with Selected Biographical Materials and Critical Essays. Gainesville: Patrons of the Libraries, University of Florida, 1980. Useful checklist of works by and about MacDonald. A good starting point for further research.